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Showing posts with label Excerpt Reveal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Excerpt Reveal. Show all posts
Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Excerpt Reveal: The Anti-Boyfriend by Penelope Ward

Read an excerpt from The Anti-Boyfriend by Penelope Ward.  This standalone contemporary romance is going on my Best of 2020 List! 
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EXCERPT REVEAL
Title: The Anti-Boyfriend
Author: Penelope Ward
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 31, 2020

BLURB

From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Ward, comes a new standalone novel.

At first, my neighbor Deacon frustrated me.

Sure, he was great-looking and friendly.

But our walls were thin, and on occasion, he’d bring women to his place and keep me awake while he “entertained” them.

As a single mother to an infant, I didn’t appreciate it.

So, finally it was my turn.

When my daughter wouldn’t stop wailing one night, Mr. Manwhore came knocking on my door.


Miraculously, at the sound of his voice, Sunny stopped crying. And when he held her…she eventually fell asleep in his arms.

Deacon was rough on the exterior, but apparently on the inside? Mr. Single-and-Ready-to-Mingle was a baby whisperer.

After that night, we became friends.

He’d go for coffee runs. Come over to chat. Normal friend stuff.

But over time, our conversations ran deeper. We got closer.

Until one night we crossed the line.

Our friendship turned into a complicated mess.

I’d gone and fallen for a guy who’d sworn off commitment and kids.

I knew Deacon was starting to care for me too, even though Sunny and I didn’t fit into any plan he’d ever imagined for himself.

He was wrong for me—so wrong that I’d dubbed him the “anti-boyfriend.”

Then why did I wish more than anything that I could be the one woman to change him?


PRE-ORDER LINKS
Google Books: https://bit.ly/2EpJYgX


AMAZON LIVE RELEASE ALERT: https://fave.co/2KoLPUN


EXCERPT

Copyright © 2020
By Penelope Ward 

Today, just as I got back to my door, Deacon was exiting his apartment.
“Oh, hey, Carys-Like-Paris. How goes it?” He flashed a wide smile.
When people ask me my name, for some stupid reason, I sometimes answer, “Carys, like Paris,” particularly when I’m nervous. That was the case the first time I met Deacon.
A whiff of his amazing smell put my body on alert. He looked handsome as always. Today he wore a camel-colored suede coat with a shearling collar. His blue eyes, which stood out against his tanned skin, glimmered under the fluorescent lights overhead, which also brought out the copper tint to his otherwise medium-brown hair. He was at least six-foot-two—a beanstalk to my five-foot-four self.
This was my opportunity to bring up last night. But now that he was right here, towering over me, his musky smell saturating the air, I seemed to have lost the words. Still, I was determined to speak up now or never.
My heartbeat accelerated. Here goes. Still out of breath from my sprint up the stairs, I said, “Well, honestly, in answer to your question… I’d love to say I’m doing great, but I had a hard time getting to sleep last night. So, I’ve been better.”
He frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Actually, it’s sort of your fault.”
Deacon’s forehead crinkled. “My fault?”
“Yeah. I don’t know if you realize this, but your bed is right up against mine, on the opposite side of the wall. Your…interactions…last night woke me up, and I had a hard time getting back to sleep.”
Boom.
There.
Said it.
Deacon closed his eyes momentarily. “Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were right behind me.”
“Yeah. It’s basically like I’m…right there.”
“Well, that was rude of me. I should’ve invited you to join.”
What? It felt like all my blood rushed to my head.
He held out his palms. “I’m kidding. Bad sense of humor comes out when I feel awkward, I guess.”
Slipping a piece of my hair behind my ear, I brushed off his comment. “I know you’re kidding.”
“Totally kidding.” He smiled. “But I’ll try to be more considerate now that I know you can hear everything. You should’ve said something.”
I tilted my head. “How exactly would that have worked? Barging in on two naked people? That’s why I’m saying something now.”
“Solid point. But I take it last night wasn’t the first time you overheard things?”
I looked down at my feet. “No, it wasn’t.”
“You could’ve banged on the wall or something.”
“I’m not one to rudely interrupt someone’s…personal happenings. I just wanted you to be aware of the situation. We don’t need to discuss it further.”
“Maybe we should come up with a code.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, If I’m disturbing your peace, you play a song and crank it up to send me a message.” He snapped his fingers. “Something ironic like ‘The Sounds of Silence’ by Simon and Garfunkel.”
“Can’t exactly crank up a song when a baby is sleeping.”
His smile faded. “See? That goes to show you how clueless I am. Clueless and so sorry, Carys. Truly. I’ll try not to let it happen again.”
“It better not, fuckboy!” a voice shouted from behind one of the apartment doors.
Deacon and I turned around in unison. I noticed Mrs. Winsbanger’s door move across the hall. The old lady must have been listening in. She lived alone, and I often spotted her peeking out her door, spying on people.
Deacon grimaced. “Mrs. Winsbanger loves me.”
“Apparently I’m not the only one who overheard things last night,” I said.
His face turned red. His embarrassment was a bit surprising. I’d expected him to be more cocky.
“I’ll move my bed to the other side of the room. That should help.”
“Well, that would be nice, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“It’s not.”
Happy to have the conversation over with, I let out a long breath. “Okay, well, I’ll let you get going.”
He didn’t budge and seemed to be examining my face. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Why?”
“You seem frazzled.”
Well, yeah. I didn’t get good sleep, I’m trying to get things done in possibly the only hour of the day I have free, and we just had the most awkward conversation EVER.
“This is just me—my life. I have what could be barely more than an hour to eat my lunch and have some quiet time before my daughter wakes up from her nap.”
“Ah.” He scratched his chin. “How old is she now?”
“Six months.”
Deacon knew I was a single mom. He’d run into me one day and helped me bring groceries in while I tried to juggle Sunny and her stroller.
I was just about to head back inside my apartment when his voice stopped me.
“Do you need anything?”
I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant. “Like what?”
“Something from the store? A…coffee, maybe? I’m just headed out to run a quick errand, but I can stop somewhere on the way back.”
“It’s the least you can do, monkey balls!” Mrs. Winsbanger chimed in from across the hall.
She was apparently still listening.
“Did she just fucking call me monkey balls?” he whispered.
At that moment, I lost it. Laughter got a hold of me, and it took almost a minute before I could even speak. Deacon laughed, too, but I think he was more cracking up at my reaction.
“No idea why she just called you monkey balls. But I haven’t laughed this hard in weeks.”
After I finally calmed down, Deacon repeated his earlier question.
“Anyway, as I was saying, can I get you a coffee or something?”
His offer gave me pause. It was rare that anyone asked if I needed anything. I had a couple of good friends in the city, but they worked and had busy social lives. It wasn’t like they were around in the middle of the day to run to the store for me. And given that it was fall in New York, it was getting chilly out. I had to have a damn good reason to take Sunny out in the cold.
Honestly, I was dying for a latte from Starbucks. Running to the coffee shop was definitely something people without babies took for granted. It wasn’t worth having to bundle Sunny up.
“I would love a vanilla latte from Starbucks, if you pass one on your way back,” I finally said.
“Done.” He smiled. “That’s it?”
“Just one pump of vanilla would be great.”
“One pump. Got it. Anything else?”
“Isn’t that enough? It’s hardly a necessity. I shouldn’t be taking advantage.”
“Take advantage of me. What else do you need? Seriously. It’s the least I can do after disturbing your peace last night.”
Take advantage of me. Yup. Mind straight in the gutter. “You’re not my gopher.”
“Carys….” His baritone voice turned serious, and he repeated in a slow and exaggerated manner, “What. Do. You. Need? I could run to the store.”
There was something else I desperately needed.
“Diapers?” I said hesitantly.
“Okay.” He laughed. “You’re gonna have to help me out with those. I’ve never purchased them in my life.”
Before I could tell him what size, he handed me his phone. I was all too aware of the brief touch of his hand.
“Enter your digits. I’ll text you from the store to make sure I get the right kind.”
I did as he said before handing him back the phone, once again enjoying the contact from that brief exchange. Cheap thrills were as good as it got these days.
He put it in his pocket. “Anything else?”
“Not that I can think of.”
“Alright. Well, if you change your mind, you can let me know when I text.”
“Thank you. I really appreciate it.”
“Talk to ya in a bit,” he said before heading down the hall.
I stood by my door and watched him walk away. The view from the back was just as good as the front. And moreover, it seemed Deacon was just as lovely on the inside as he was on the outside.
“One pump my ass,” I heard Mrs. Winsbanger say before she slammed her door.


AUTHOR BIO
Romance Author


Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance.

She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism.

With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.


AUTHOR LINKS



OTHER BOOKS BY PENELOPE WARD

Just One Year


The Day He Came Back


When August Ends

Google Play: https://bit.ly/3aGl1cU

Friday, April 24, 2020

Excerpt Reveal: Harvest of Sighs by Sierra Simone

Read an excerpt from Harvest of Sighs (Thornchapel #3) by Sierra Simone.  This series is must be read in order (see reading order below). 

Ladies book cover Sierra Simone

HARVEST OF SIGHS (Thornchapel #3) by Sierra Simone
Release Date: May 1st
Designer: Hang Le
Image: Vania Stoyanova
Models: Shacori Valentine & Keira Leilani 
Add to Goodreads: 

PRE-ORDER TODAY!
Amazon Universal: https://fave.co/3ePqobF

Series reading order: 
A Lesson in Thorns: https://amzn.to/2U4K4Qo
Feast of Sparks: https://amzn.to/2IZhpps
Harvest of Sighs: https://amzn.to/2J5licG

Blurb:
The genius and the sunshine girl.  As children, we fought bitterly and often, bickering every chance we got.  

But then we grew up.  
Then we came back.  

Delphine Dansey carries her heart on the outside of her body; she’s looking for love and chasing dreams.  She’s spoiled and selfish, the kind of beautiful that’s made for money and fame. But somehow she’s ended up in my keeping: a pretty submissive I can’t seem to resist, a lover who obsesses and tempts me.  

I thought I’d locked my heart away a long time ago, along with all my other weaknesses. But some doors won't stay closed, no matter how hard I fight to keep them shut.  She unravels me, just like our friends are unraveling, just like Thornchapel itself is unraveling.  

All year long, we’ve been sowing lust and jealousy and pain, heedless of the consequences. But a harvest is inevitable, and so now we must reap our sorrows.  

And our sighs.

*Harvest of Sighs is Book Three in the Thornchapel series.*
Excerpt photo

Excerpt: 
“Dammit, Auden, let me the fuck go.”
“Use your safeword, and I will.”
I open my mouth.
I can’t make the words come out.
May I, I think. May I, May I, May I. But still my tongue won’t move; the sounds won’t push past my lips.
Auden’s mouth curls up at the corner. “That’s what I thought.”
“Fuck you,” I retort.
“No,” Auden says heatedly, his hands tightening on my wrists, “fuck you. Just yesterday you promised—you promised me that you were mine, you promised me forever together. You swore. And now you’re running away again? You couldn’t even keep your promise for twenty-four hours?”
I sputter, tripping over the words as they tumble out of my mouth. “There is no promise, Auden! Things have fucking changed! And you lied about it! Jesus fucking Christ, Auden, you lied about it.”
“I didn’t lie.”
“You didn’t tell me.”
He sniffs. “That’s not lying.”
I glare at him. He glares right back at me. “That’s a juvenile justification and you know it,” I say.
“I was going to tell you.”
“When? After you’d fucked me again? Or after Lammas? Or maybe ten years from now when I finally worked up the courage to ask you to marry me?”
Auden’s glare softens into something boyish and vulnerable. He blinks long-lashed eyes at me. “You want to marry me?”
“Oh my God, Auden, that’s not the point,” I groan. “The point is we can never get married, and we can’t be together, and we can never be together again, and you knew and you didn’t tell me. You let me—you let us—yesterday, we—”
I can barely get the words out. He and I have done something unthinkably bad, something so wrong that even the word wrong isn’t heavy enough. We were more wrong than wrong—we were corrupt and unholy. Immoral and depraved.
“I know what we did yesterday,” Auden says, his voice as gentle as the grip on my wrists is firm. “I don’t see the problem, and I don’t see why you can’t keep your promise to me.”
I stare at him a moment, totally confounded. “Auden…am I talking at thin air right now? Am I not making sense? Is it my accent? Should I switch to yours?” I say the last part in my best I wear a regatta blazer to actual regattas voice, and he makes a face.
“Don’t do that, you’re terrible at it,” he says. “Listen, it’s not like—this isn’t like you’re thinking. I didn’t wait to tell you because I was trying to trick you, I waited because I wanted to find the right way to explain it all. Say it the right way so that you wouldn’t run away from me when I told you, so that you wouldn’t sever your heart from mine. I didn’t want this to be the end of us. And why should it be? Why shouldn’t you belong to me?” he finishes with a wild urgency.
I search his face. His stupid, handsome face, where even now I see glimmers of yesterday’s revels. A small bruise in the shape of Rebecca’s bite on his jaw, visible even under the shadow of his day-old beard, a small scratch disappearing into his cinnamon-colored hair from his run through the trees. The vibrant flicker of those hazel eyes—the eyes of the forest.
Never in a thousand years did I think God would be this sadistic or this pitiless, to put me in a position where I have to refuse this man.
“You know why I can’t,” I say finally. “We can’t. We just—it can’t be, Auden. You know this.”
His eyes stay stark and raw on mine as he says, “But I want you.”
“You can’t.”
“But I want it,” he says, and with his eyes like that and his voice so low, there’s no mistaking what it is.
“You can’t want it,” I whisper, and his grip tightens on my wrists as he pushes them out to the sides until my arms are spread on either side of me and my wrists are pinned to the wall. It’s like I’m about to be crucified, like I’m already on the cross, but without the nails and the thorns, because Auden himself is all the nails and thorns I’ll ever need.
“Oh, can’t I?” he says. “Because I do, St. Sebastian, I do want it. I need it. I don’t care what that makes me, I don’t care what that means for my immortal soul. I’ve known you were mine since I kissed you in the thorn chapel, and I’ve known that you wanted to be mine since you let me bite your lip until it bled.” His eyes drop to my lip piercing now, and I can feel how much he wants to pull on it and kiss it. I can feel how much he wants that labret running along his shaft, how much he’d love to see it gleaming in the dark while he fucks me. “You can run away all you want, but it’s too late. You already swore to me. I’ve already known what it was like to have your heart in my hands, and it’s simply too late.”
He ducks his head enough to move his lips over mine—something both more and less than a kiss—something like a promise made with touch instead of words.
And fuck me if I don’t want to promise something right back.
“It can’t be too late,” I whisper. “Even if you did wait to tell me until you got what you wanted.”
Auden doesn’t lift his mouth from mine, and I feel his words as much as I hear them.
“And what did I get, my little martyr? What do you think I wanted?”
I wish so much I weren’t still hard as I answer him. “You wanted to fuck me.”
“No,” he says, tugging on my lip piercing with his teeth. “I wanted what I still want.” He kisses me again. “I want forever, stubborn boy. Only that.”

About the Author: 
Sierra Simone is a USA Today Bestselling former librarian (who spent too much time reading romance novels at the information desk.) She lives with her husband and family in Kansas City.


Connect w/Sierra Simone: 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sierra-Simone-497450453680395/?fref=ts 
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SierraSimonesLambs
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheSierraSimone 
Amazon : http://amzn.to/1PDR4K4 
Goodreads : http://bit.ly/1oo9WEh 
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/thesierrasimone/ 

Subscribe to Sierra's newsletter: 
Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Sneak Peek: My Favorite Souvenir by Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland

Read chapter one of My Favorite Souvenir by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland. This new romance book is sitting at the top of my Best of 2020 romance book list! April 27th release.


E-ARC INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAY —> https://bit.ly/earcgiveaway

New books Amazon
My Favorite Souvenir
Release date: 4/27/2020
A Contemporary Romance Novel
New York Times Bestselling Authors Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland

EXCERPT REVEAL:
“Good afternoon. You’ve reached the Four Seasons Resort, Vail, Colorado. How may I direct your call?”
I took a deep breath. “Hi. I checked out early this morning. My reservation was for ten days, but I only wound up staying two nights. Is there any chance you might still have my room available? Or any room, for that matter? My flight was canceled because of the storm.”
“Let me take a look. What’s your last name?”
“Appleton.” I shook my head. “Actually, the reservation was under Ellis. My fiancĂ©’s last name.” Or ex-fiancĂ©. But I’d let her call me Mrs. Ellis at this point if it meant I could have a place to sleep tonight.
“Give me one moment and I’ll check.” 
“Thank you.”
I sat down in the lobby of the Best Western, the third hotel I’d been to in the last two hours. It was dumb of me to check out this morning. Though, at least I was consistent. After making the bad decision to go on my previously planned honeymoon alone, I’d brilliantly decided to check out only two days into the trip…without looking at the weather report for Vail. When I arrived at the airport, I had no idea that a blizzard was on the way. But the airline had assured me my flight was still scheduled as planned. And they’d kept their word right up until five minutes before we were supposed to board, when they announced a two-hour delay. Two hours turned into three, and three turned into five, and when we hit six hours of sitting on uncomfortable plastic seats outside the gate, they finally admitted it wasn’t going to happen. Every other flight had been canceled by then. And now, every hotel seemed to be full.
The hotel operator came back on the line.
“Hi, Mrs. Ellis?”
I cringed at being called that, but answered anyway. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry. After you checked out, your room was rebooked. We’re actually sold out for the night because of the storm.”
I sighed. Of course you are. “Okay. Thank you.”
This was just my luck lately. I called four more hotels, until one said they might have a few rooms available. Apparently they had guests that hadn’t checked in yet and were in the process of making calls to confirm whether they would still be arriving today. Rooms would be freed up on a first-come, first-served basis. So I decided to take a chance and head on over. It was already seven o’clock at night, and there was no point in sitting here anymore. Surprisingly, Uber was still running, even though the airport had called it quits hours ago. 
Out front, the snow was coming down hard. A giant SUV with snow chains on the tires pulled up in front of the door. I couldn’t check the license plate or get a look at the make and model of the vehicle since it was covered in snow, so I walked over to the car and motioned for the driver to roll down the window. 
“Are you Hazel?” the older woman behind the wheel asked.
I smiled. “Yes.”
“Heading over to the Snow Eagle Lodge?”
“Yes, please.”
Even though the next hotel was only two miles away, it took fifteen minutes to get there. By the time we pulled up, the conditions were almost white-out. It couldn’t be safe driving in this anymore.
“God, it’s really terrible out here,” I said as I pulled up the hood of my jacket. “Be careful driving tonight.” 
“Oh, I will, honey. The next place I’m driving is home. I only picked you up because you were on my way. Good thing you’re at your hotel now. No one is going to be on the roads tonight anymore.”
Great. This place really better have a room for me. 
As I climbed out of the SUV, a gust of snow smacked me in the face, despite the fact that we were parked under the building’s overhang. The wind made it look like someone had shaken a snow globe, hard. Inside the hotel, I wiped flakes from my eyelashes and glanced around the lobby.
Oh no.
This didn’t look good. A line of at least thirty or forty people snaked five rows deep, waiting to get to the reception desk. I sighed and wheeled my luggage to behind the last person. More than half an hour later, I finally reached the front. 
“Hi. I called earlier, and the person I spoke to said some rooms might become available, that you were going to contact guests who hadn’t showed and see if they were still coming?”
The woman nodded with a frown. “Yeah. I can put you on our waitlist. But we’re still making calls, and to be honest, it’s not looking too good.”
My shoulders slumped. “Okay. Well, I guess please add me to your wait list.”
The woman lifted a clipboard and set it down on the counter. She thumbed through a few pages and turned it to face me, pointing at the next available line, which was two from the bottom of the page. “Just add your name and cell phone number.”
I scribbled both and let the pages above the one I’d been writing on fan back into place. Noticing the sheet at the top looked just like the one I’d signed, five or six pages down, I glanced through all the papers. There had to be at least a hundred names and telephone numbers.
“Are these all on your waiting list?”
The hotel clerk nodded. 
“How many people haven’t checked in?”
“I think about a dozen.”
Oh God. This really wasn’t good. But maybe people had just added their names and left, like in a packed restaurant. Maybe the bulk of people ahead of me on the list had found other hotels.
Turning around, whatever hope I’d talked myself into immediately deflated. Every seat in the lobby area behind me was taken. Some were even sitting on the floor, leaning against their luggage. With very few options, I wandered over and found an empty space on a carpeted area of the floor, not too far from the concierge desk. Though I knew it was futile, I took out my iPad and continued to search for a hotel with availability. Even if I found one, getting there would be a miracle on its own at this point.
The nearby concierge desk had been empty while I scrolled and made calls, but now two women walked over. One I recognized as the manager, since I’d spent a half hour staring at the people behind the front desk while I’d waited in line. The other had on a nametag and held a clipboard. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation from where I sat.
“These seven we still haven’t reached,” the manager said. “All of the other rooms have been checked in, or we’ve reallocated them to people from the waiting list.”
The employee flipped through the pages and looked around the full hotel lobby. “Jeez. And this storm is supposed to stick around for days.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a guy standing on the other side of the concierge desk. His back was to the ladies talking, but he craned his neck, and I thought he, too, might be eavesdropping. Figuring he was probably just as bored as me, I went back to my iPad search—until a few minutes later when I noticed him scribbling something with a pen on the inside of his hand. 
What the hell is he doing?
He wrote for a few seconds and then seemed to go back to eavesdropping. The manager had walked away, leaving the employee to make her phone calls. She hung up from one call and dialed again. 
“Hi. This is Catherine from the Snow Eagle Lodge. I’m trying to reach Milo or Madeline Hooker.” 
The minute she said the names, the eavesdropper scribbled on his hand again. 
Catherine continued leaving her message. “I just wanted to confirm whether you’d still be arriving this evening. Your reservation is guaranteed, so we’ll hold it as long as you need. However, if the storm has perhaps caused a change in your travel plans, we do have a long wait list of guests who could use the two rooms you have booked. My number here is 970-555-4000, if you could please return my call at your earliest convenience. Thank you.”
The same thing went on with the next two calls. Catherine left a message and the eavesdropper scribbled. Curious about what he was up to, I kept my eye on him. After the hotel clerk finished making her calls, she went back to the front desk. Eavesdropper picked up his backpack and casually strolled down a nearby hallway. I leaned to watch where he was going, and he eventually pulled up his hood and exited out a side door I hadn’t even noticed was there. 
I thought it was odd, but I figured the show was over. 
But a few minutes later, a guy with the same ski jacket walked through the front lobby door. He pulled his hood down, and I got a look at his face for the very first time.
Damn, he was handsome. Medium brown hair that was kind of shaggy and needed a cut, full lips, hazel eyes, and tanned skin. His warm skin tone really stood out against the pasty color of most people in Colorado this time of the year, including me. It was a shame I loathed men right now, because he was seriously gorgeous. He dusted some of the snow from the shoulders of his jacket and went to wait in line. It was much shorter now, with only two men in front of him, mostly because people weren’t braving the storm anymore. I had no idea what possessed me to do it, but I decided to get up and wait behind the guy. Maybe I was imagining things to keep myself entertained, but I had the distinct feeling he was up to something.
When it was his turn at the front desk, I moved as close as I could to listen without seeming like a stalker.
“Hi. I’m checking in,” the man said.
“Great. What’s your last name, sir?”
He cleared his throat. “Hooker. Milo Hooker.”
I squinted. The guy was totally full of shit. I knew it! 
The unsuspecting hotel clerk punched a bunch of keys on her keyboard and smiled. “I have your reservation right here. Two rooms for two nights, breakfast included. Is that right?”
“Uhhh…” The guy nodded. “Yeah. I booked two rooms. But it turns out I’m only going to need the one.” He looked over his shoulder. “Looks like you won’t have a problem filling the other one, though.”
She smiled. “No, we definitely won’t. I’ll just need a credit card and a picture ID please, Mr. Hooker.”
I waited. This was the moment of truth. If he wasn’t actually Milo Hooker, he was going to have to make up some excuse. 
The guy reached into his front pocket like he was going to pull out his wallet. For a second, I thought I might’ve been wrong, but then he pulled out a wad of cash.
“I lost my wallet on the slopes today. Luckily, I had some cash sent over through Western Union before the storm got too bad. Can I just pay cash?”
The young woman hesitated. “You don’t have any ID at all? I’m not supposed to check people in without photo identification.”
Fake Milo poured on the charm. He leaned forward and showed off a set of cavernous dimples. “We could take a selfie together?”
The woman giggled. She actually giggled. “Let me just check with my manager.”
She disappeared into the back and returned with the manager a few minutes later. 
A crazy idea popped into my head. She said there were two rooms… I made a spur-of-the-moment decision and approached the counter.
“There you are, Milo.” I rested my hand on the guy’s shoulder. “My flight was canceled. I hope they still have our rooms.”
Fake Milo turned and looked at me with his brows furrowed. 
He was going to blow it if I didn’t do something, so I turned my attention to the two hotel employees. “My brother and I booked rooms here for two nights, but I was trying to get out before the storm. Obviously I had no luck. I spent the entire day in the airport. Please tell me you still have my room? I’m dying for a hot bath.”
Milo looked at me, then the hotel employees, then back at me. I smiled and arched a brow. For a second, I almost felt bad for the guy. He looked so bewildered. Since he still seemed to be at a loss for words, I figured I should continue talking. “We went skiing early this morning and had our backpacks stolen. Between that and the storm coming, I figured it was a sign that I should get back home early. Apparently Mother Nature had other plans. We should have two rooms—Milo and Madeline Hooker. Someone actually just left me a message on my cell asking us to confirm. Her name was Catherine, I believe.”
The desk clerk nodded. “That was me. The storm has a lot of people stranded here unexpectedly without rooms, so we were checking in with guests that hadn’t arrived yet.”
The manager looked back and forth between Fake Milo and me. “We’ll have to take a hundred-dollar deposit for incidentals on each room since you don’t have a credit card.”
I smiled. “Of course.”
She nodded to her employee. “Check them in. It’s fine.”
The man next to me still had his mouth hanging open. So I dug into my purse, being careful not to show my wallet, which was supposed to have been stolen, and scooped out all of the cash. 
“How much are the rooms?” I asked the clerk. 
“Let’s see. With tax, they come to three-hundred-and-forty-two dollars each, for the two nights, and then we have to collect the hundred-dollar deposit.”
Shit. I didn’t think I had that much cash. I counted the money in my hand and slid it over in front of Fake Milo. “Can you spot me forty dollars? You know I’m good for it, bro.”
“Uh, yeah. Sure.”
After we paid and got the room keys, we walked side by side to the elevator bank in silence. It wasn’t until we were alone and the elevator doors slid shut that Milo turned to me. “What the hell just happened?”
I laughed. “We just got rooms, that’s what happened.”
He shook his head. “But who are you?”
“I noticed you standing near the concierge desk and eavesdropping while she called the guests who hadn’t arrived yet.” I reached forward and took the man’s hand, opening it to display blue ink. “You wrote down the names of the guests. I thought it was odd, so I followed you to the front desk to see what you were up to. When you made up that bogus story about losing your wallet so you could justify not having any ID, I knew you were full of shit.” I shrugged. “When the woman said there were two rooms on the reservation, I saw an opening and took it.”
“How did you know I’d go along with it?”
I smiled. “I didn’t. But that’s what made it so much fun!” I covered my chest with my hand. “My heart feels like it’s trying to ricochet out of my ribcage at this moment. It’s been a long time since I did anything risky like that.”
His eyes roamed my face. I got the feeling he still wasn’t sure what to make of me, even though I’d just explained what I’d done. He looked down at my lips, which were still curved in an excited smile. 
“Why is that?”
My forehead wrinkled. “Why is what?”
“Why’s it been a long time since you’ve done anything risky? It looks to me like you enjoyed it.”
I blinked a few times, not having expected a question that would tug at my heartstrings, and my smile fell. “I don’t know. I guess I kind of turned into a different person over the last few years.”
Fake Milo’s eyes locked with mine. We’d gone from pulling off a crazy stunt and laughing, to an odd seriousness. His eyes flickered to my lips and back once again. “That’s a shame. You have a great smile.” 
Warmth spread through me, and I couldn’t seem to unlock my eyes from the stranger’s—at least until the elevator dinged and the doors opened on the third floor. 
“This is us,” he said. “Rooms 320 and 321.”
“Oh. Right. Okay.” I stepped out and followed the signs to our rooms. Since we were, of course, family, they’d put us right next to each other. We stood a few feet apart as we opened our respective doors. As my lock unlatched and I turned the handle to go inside, something dawned on me. 
“I almost forgot! I owe you forty dollars for the room.”
He smiled. “Don’t worry about it.”
“No, don’t be silly. I just didn’t have enough cash and didn’t want to hand the woman a credit card when we weren’t supposed to have ID. I’ll just throw my bag in the room and go downstairs to find an ATM. They must have one somewhere.”
“I thought you couldn’t wait to take a hot bath, or was that part of the act?”
I laughed. “No, it actually wasn’t. I wasn’t lying when I said I spent the entire day at the airport. A hot bath sounds pretty amazing right about now. But I can grab your cash first. It won’t take me long.”
Fake Milo scratched at the stubble on his chin. “I’ll tell you what. I’m going to take a quick shower and then go downstairs to the bar for a drink. Take your bath. You can find me there afterward to give me the money.”
“Okay.”
We looked at each other for a moment. 
“Alright, well, enjoy your soak, sis.”
I smiled. “Thanks, Milo. I’ll see you later.”

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BLURB
My planned trip for two unexpectedly turned into a trip for one.  Rather than let my breakup get me down, I packed my bags and decided a week at a luxury resort was just what I needed.
But one calamity after the next, and suddenly I was stuck without a hotel room, along with a few hundred other people.
It looked like my fancy vacation was about to turn into me sleeping on the hotel lobby floor.
Until I overheard a gorgeous man pretending to be someone he wasn’t in order to steal a reservation from a guest who hadn’t shown up yet.
When I realized there were two rooms, instead of calling him out, I pretended to be his sister. That’s how the story of “Milo and Maddie Hooker” began. 
We were the Hookers.
My depressing trip quickly made a U-turn into an adventure.  
My fake brother spent the next few days showing me around his hometown. When it was time to leave, neither of us really wanted to go yet. 
So, instead of flying back to our respective homes, we ventured on a road trip. 
At every stop, we’d pick up souvenirs.
But as hot as our chemistry was, we never crossed the line.
Milo knew I’d just come out of a tough relationship and didn’t want to mess with a vulnerable woman.
So instead, at the end of our trip, we made a pact to meet again in three months.   
It was always my intention to meet him.
But when I got back home, reality hit in a big way.
And I worried I may have lost my handsome stranger forever.
Was there a place for him in my future?
Or had the memory of him just become my favorite souvenir?

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Author image of Vi and Penelope

PENELOPE WARD:
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance.

She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism. 

With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.

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VI KEELAND
Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author.   With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.

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